Tomasz Adamek was in the face of Johnathon Banks most of the night on Saturday. Photo / Tom Casino
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY — The first chants for Tomasz Adamek began a full two and half hours before he entered the ring. A largely nondescript undercard last night was punctuated by occasional bursts of “AAHDA-MEK, AAHDA-MEK!” and attempts to follow the action inside the ring were diverted by the relentless flurries of flag waiving.
Adamek, born in Golwice, Poland and now a resident of Jersey City, had 5,900 of his closest buddies at the Prudential Center. And he did not disappoint them. Adamek dropped Johnathon Banks twice en route to an eighth-round TKO to retain THE RING and IBF cruiserweight titles. The champion led on all three scorecards, but only by one point on two cards and three points on the third. Nonetheless, the crowd stood and chanted for 10 minutes after the fight. After 15 minutes, they were singing the Polish National Anthem.
“I want to thank my fans very, very much,” said Adamek. “I enjoy fighting for them. I prepare very, very hard for every fight. I come to bring my best and to fight hard. I am very pleased they enjoyed it.”
But the energy from the pro Adamek crowd was not quickly transferred to their hero.
Banks calmly controlled the action for the first three rounds. He jabbed and landed several hard overhand rights while Adamek mostly pursued and studied the Kronk fighter. The fight was like a chess match, which wasn't exactly what the fans came to see.
However, Adamek's plan was to take his time.
“I knew it was only a matter of time,” said Adamek (37-1, with 25 knockouts). “I knew I had to be patient. It was a tactical plan to start slower because we had to watch for the right hand. As the fight went on, we knew he was going to tire.”
The largely Polish crowd, many of them with their faces painted red, were determined to will their fighter the victory. They chanted and whistled and sang. By the fourth round it began to work. Adamek was closing the distance. His pressure was constant. Even when he wasn't throwing punches, he was there, right in front of Banks, making him move, think or punch.
“We knew that the longer the fight went, he would slow down and I would get faster,” said Adamek.
By the seventh round, Banks was a different fighter. The champion's body work was clearly slowing him down. He seemed resigned to his fate. Banks was suffocating in the ring and had fewer answers for Adamek's increasing punch output.
“I could tell they watched my previous fights because he was able to block my body punches,” said Adamek. “As the fight went on I changed my strategy and I started to land to the body more.”
Adamek, forever walking forward, was busy throwing multi-punch combinations while Banks responded with single shots, either a flicking left jab or looping right hand.
And just when it seemed Banks could sneak his way back into the fight, stunning the champion with a sharp right, Adamek composed himself and leveled him with a short right hand. Banks gamely rose to his feet.
But Adamek, with the crowd on its feet fueling the frenzy, had victory within his grasp. He calmly dissected Banks in a neutral corner and dropped him again with a flurry, finalized by a tight left hook. Referee Eddie Cotton stopped the fight at the 1:30 mark of the round. The roar returned with even greater intensity.
But the night was building for just such a moment.
The crowd was distracted — slightly — when hometown favorite Jerson Ravelo fought a non-TV eight-rounder. The Newark native had his share of fans in the house and the Adamek supporters joined in the chants of “JERSON, JERSON, JERSON,” if only to warm up for the main event. And ultimately, the chants of “JERSON” evolved into “AAHDA-MEK, AAHDA-MEK ADAHM-MEK!” And when Ravelo was upset, dropped twice in the eighth round before getting stopped, all loyalties to the local fighter were traded for the overwhelming crescendo that generally accompanies a knockout.
Two hours later, just minutes before the first televised bout but still 30 minutes before their fighter would enter the ring, the chants of “ADAHM-MEK, ADAHM-MEK!” or “POLSKA!” rendered all forms of verbal communication inside the Prudential Center useless. Showtime announcers Steve Farhood and Nick Charles, sans headsets for the live opening, strained to hear one another. There was maybe two feet between them.
When Giovanni Lorenzo of the Dominican Republic starched Dionisio Miranda of Colombia with a single, straight right hand in the second round of their middlweight bout, the crowd erupted one more time. Not so much in appreciation for anything Lorenzo accomplished; they knew it was time for the main event. The real reason to cheer was finally at hand.
On the undercard: Don Mouton of Houston stopped Jerson Ravelo of Newark with 49 seconds left in the eighth-round of a scheduled eight-round middleweight bout. Ravelo was ahead on two of three scorecards before the fight was stopped. … Henry Crawford, of Paterson, N.J., scored a unanimous decision over Keenan Collins of Reading, Pa., in a six-round welterweight bout. … Jeremy Bryan of Paterson scored a unanimous decision over Osvaldo Rivera of the Bronx in a six-round welterweight bout. … Jesse Kubash of Pittsburgh stopped Chucky Tschorniawsky of Philadelphia in the second round of a welterweight bout. … And Anthony Flores of Philadelphia scored a unanimous decision over Ikem Orji of Laurel, Md., in a six-round lightweight bout.
Robert Cassidy covers sports for Newsday